New settler home constructions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has soared by 70 percent in the year to March 2017, according to the data released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
Work began on 2,758 dwellings since April 2016, compared with 1,619 during the previous 12 months that ended in March 2016.
The figures released on Monday do not include Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem which Israel considers an integral part of its “indivisible capital”.
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Settlement watchdog Peace Now said the settlement boom coincided with a 2.5-percent drop in construction starts inside Israel.
“Instead of working to solve the Israeli housing crisis, the government prioritises a radical minority living beyond the boundaries of the state,” it said, according to the Reuters news agency.
“Such construction continues to distance us from the only way to end the Israeli Palestinian conflict – a two-state solution.”
More than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, that are seen as a major obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. They live alongside some three million Palestinians.
Highest number since 1992
Israel’s defence minister said that the country so far this year advanced its highest number of settlement projects since 1992.
Avigdor Lieberman said on June 11 that, so far this year, plans had been advanced for 8,345 homes in the occupied West Bank, including 3,066 slated for “immediate construction”.
“The numbers for the first half of 2017 are the highest since 1992,” Lieberman said.
The settlement projects are at various stages in the planning process and the units are located in a number of settlements across the West Bank.
Settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to a solution as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state in a two-state settlement.
More than 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, alongside around 2.9 million Palestinians, which critics say makes a two-state agreement highly unlikely.
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Source: News agencies